One of the awesome things about BlackBerry 10 is the ability to run Android applications - either ports downloaded from BlackBerry World or apps you sideloaded yourself. Technically these *are* BlackBerry apps when you install them, since the Android .apk files have been converted to .bar files, but the apps are essentially all Android and run within the Android App Player environment on BlackBerry 10.
Right now the Android App Player on BB10 is running Gingerbread (Android v2.3), but support for Jelly Bean (v4.2) has been announced and is coming soon, which should see a further boost in the performance of how well ported Android apps run on BlackBerry 10. Even now, the apps mostly run well and often times you can't even tell that they are Android aside from parts of the UI.
One catch you might find is that navigating them can be a bit troublesome at times if you don't know what you're doing. Prime example - I handed my BlackBerry Z10 off to my wife while it was in an Android application. Less than a minute later she was asking me "how do I go back?". If you're a bit stuck using Android apps on your BlackBerry 10 device, keep reading and we'll break it down for you.
Making your way around Android apps on BlackBerry 10
There's nothing wrong with using Android apps on BlackBerry 10. There are tons that have been ported over and are readily available in BlackBerry World, and sideloading is a great way to use apps that aren't yet available for BlackBerry. So don't be ashamed, we all do it.
First things first. How do you even know if you're using an Android app?
There are a few key things to be on the lookout for that are sure signs of Android.
- The app starts on a black screen with a BlackBerry logo and/or takes a bit to start up
- The navigation UI doesn't look like that of BlackBerry (ie. different fonts, icons, colors)
- You see the Android navigation bar pinned to the bottom of the screen
- You can't navigate by swiping with the standard BlackBerry gestures
- You already know it's an Android app
Once you know if you're actually using an Android app - there are a few ways to navigate around. A lot of the native BlackBerry 10 gestures won't work here, so you just need to keep in mind a few important gestures that will work inside Android apps. You can still tap around as usual, but finding the settings or going back takes a bit more work.
First, swiping down from the top bezel will reveal the Android navigation bar (if it's not already showing). On the bar, you have the option to go back, pin the bar (so it never hides) and an overflow menu.
Back - the back button does just what it says - goes back. This is the easiest way to go back when in an Android app. The other way is by swiping on a diagonally from the bottom right of the screen up and to the left. You can see the direction of the swipe in the screens below.
This is perhaps the gesture you'll use most so learn it, love it and live it. Use this to go back from pretty much anywhere within an Android application.
Info - If you forget the swiping back gesture, check out this info screen as it shows an animation on just how to do it.
Pin Bar/Hide Bar - tapping this will let you pin the navigation bar so it's always shown. Alternatively, after pinning this will change to Hide Bar - so you can always hide it again if you want. When hidden, you can show the bar again by swiping down from the top bezel.
Overflow - The overflow (3 dots) icon will bring up the application menu (providing the app has one). The menu is typically in the form of a dropdown, so when you tap the icon you'll see a menu appear and you can go about your business.
There's not much else to it. Getting around inside Android apps isn't too difficult, but if you aren't used to the gestures there may be a bit of learning to it. Soon enough you'll be a gesture master!
How to sideload Android apps from Windows
How to sideload Android apps from a Mac